In his Diet Detective column Charles Stuart Platkin suggests readers use a diet template as a guide to help them stick to their diet goals.

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How’s your New Year’s resolution to lose weight going? Not so good? Did you take time to map out how you were going to lose the weight and keep it off? It’s never too late to start. Here’s a sample plan to get you back on track. Use it as a template — see how I did it, then make your own and fill in all the details below the headers.

The Overall Goal: (Pick your weight-loss goal)

Lose 35 pounds forever!!!

Long-Term Rewards:

a. Fit into a great bathing suit.

b. Reduce my chances of getting any of the seven serious diseases related to being overweight.

c. Be happier and more self-aware.

d. Increase self-confidence.

The Strategy, Specific Details and Micro-Goals:

– Total Calories to Cut in a Year to Reach Goal: 35 pounds at 3,500 calories per pound is 122,500 calories

– Calories to Cut Per Day: 336

– Change in Food: Cut 250 calories a day (look for Calorie Bargains)

– Change in Activity: Burn additional 100 calories per day (e.g., walk for 30 minutes)

Below, you should lay out the particulars of how, what, where and when.

Food:

Goal: Cut 250 calories per day

Specific Strategies:

Use Calorie Bargains (food swaps). Look for foods you typically eat and substitute healthier alternatives that you can live with.

– Eat an orange and drink unsweetened green tea instead of drinking orange juice.

– Try a low-calorie vinaigrette instead of blue cheese salad dressing.

– Drink wine instead of vodka and tonic.

– Total savings: approximately 250 calories per day.

Physical Activity and Strength Training:

Goal: Burn 100 calories per day and strength train three times per week.

Specific Strategies:

– I will exercise in the morning and get it out of the way, otherwise I won’t do it.

– On Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday mornings, I will walk on the trail at the park right by the gardening center where I go anyway. It will be perfect. I can walk for 30 to 40 minutes and burn 125 to 140 calories.

– On Tuesday and Thursday I will bike to work — it’s about 15 minutes each way — that’s another 125 calories. If the weather’s bad, I will use a dance DVD for 30 minutes before work.

– For strength and core training, I will purchase a few highly rated DVDs and will hire a trainer to come to my home once a week for 30-45 minutes.

Reward for Compliance (non-food reward you give yourself for eating properly and exercising)

– Week 1: Massage

– Week 2: Best-selling book I want

– Week 3: New sneakers

– Week 4: Manicure and pedicure

– Do this for at least six months to one year. By then you should have automatic behaviors, and your rewards should be intrinsic.

Obstacles, Slip-ups or Potential Setbacks I May Encounter:

List as many as you can, and keep these diet saboteurs in mind:

Eating Alarm Times: Times I overeat most

Unconscious Eating: Eating when I’m doing something else

Diet Busters: Foods that tempt me

a. At family gatherings I overeat and throw my diet out the window.

b. Lunch at work — I eat fast food twice a week.

c. Dinner out two evenings per week. The bread basket!!

d. Chinese food. We bring it in every week. I love it, and I’m not giving it up.

e. Late-night snacking. After dinner I sit in front of the TV and have a bag of potato chips or ice cream. And brushing my teeth to avoid this craving is not going to cut it!

Ways to Overcome These Obstacles:

a. Prior to family gatherings, I will bring my own food or ask the host to prepare something low-calorie.

b. Before eating at the fast-food restaurant, I will mentally rehearse ordering two grilled chicken sandwiches without mayonnaise, and no fries. This will be instead of the large burger, fries and a soda I usually have.

c. I will ask the server not to bring any bread to the table. If someone at the table wants bread, the server can put it on that person’s individual plate. And if I really want it, I will ask for just one piece.

d. I have no problem having my dumplings steamed instead of fried, and I could do without the fried soup noodles.

e. Again, I’m going to prepare for late-night cravings by thinking in advance. I will not have any “junk” foods around.

Excuses I Might Use That Could Hinder My Goals:

a. I have a slow metabolism.

b. I get embarrassed asking the wait staff not to bring the bread to the table.

c. My husband orders the Chinese food, so I have no control — he wants the fried dumplings. Not only that, but he doesn’t always finish them all and then they’re there to tempt me.

Excuse Busters:

a. Yes, I may have a slow metabolism, but I realize that I can make my new eating adjustments automatic and keep the weight off.

b. I will call the restaurant right before I leave home and ask them over the phone. I have less of a problem asking over the phone than in person.

c. I will make sure that I do the ordering, or, at the very least, we can order fried dumplings for my husband and steamed for me.

Life Preservers: (Visualization Exercises — imagined future events that you use when you’re tempted)

a. Running into Cynthia (high school days teaser) at the grocery store, and now she’s the one who’s heavy, while I’m fit and slim.

b. Going to a parent-teacher conference and feeling confident, not embarrassed.

c. Going on a bike trip with my family and having a great time.

Charles Stuart Platkin is a nutrition and public health advocate, founder of DietDetective.com, and host of the new WE tv series I Want To Save Your Life. Copyright 2008-2009 by Charles Stuart Platkin. All rights reserved. Sign up for the free Diet Detective newsletter and iTunes podcast at www.DietDetective.com